GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - We cannot predict when a disaster will happen, but we can be prepared. Last year, when tornadoes ripped through the middle of our state, volunteers with the state medical response system immediately rushed to help.
"In Louisville, I was amazed," Mississippi Department of Health Director of Health Protection Jim Craig said. "After that hospital and nursing home were severely damaged, we brought a field hospital into the community to be their hospital for a little while, and the staffing for them, so they could go take care of their own homes and their own problems."
This week in Gulfport members of the state medical response team are undergoing training. There's around 130 South Mississippians on the team and more than 5,000 statewide.
"It takes time for the federal government to come in. And while they are coming in, we can have the community responding helping our fellow co-workers and neighbors," Mississippi Gulf Coast Medical Reserve Corps Romeatrius Moss said.
The volunteers are doctors, nurses, dentists, and even some who do not have any experience in health care, but can help with administrative needs. They go through training ahead of time so when a disaster strikes they can grab their gear and go.
"The health system is overwhelmed in a case of an emergency or a disaster, so it's very important that volunteers are knowledgeable and trained in different aspects of public health so that they can come up to the front and participate," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemiologist Field Officer Dr. Nykiconia Preacely said.
The state medical response team also gets the opportunity to respond to disasters or big events across the county and the world. Some South Mississippians went to Haiti to render aid after the deadly earthquake in 2010, and others volunteered for the presidential inauguration.
"It's a great experience," Ross said. "To give back and be a part of something bigger, it's humbling when you have to go. Especially when you go to a country that has just been devastated by an earthquake and hurricane, and then we kind of learn how to respond for our own situations here at home."
The team volunteers their time, but their travel, housing, and food is taken care of while they are on jobs.
To learn more about the team or how you can be a part of it, go to https://signupms.org/